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Update: May 6th 2017 – Local Elections

The results of the County Council and Panshanger ward election are as follows:

Panshanger:

Name of Candidate Description (if any) Votes Elected
MITCHINSON, Terry The Conservative Party Candidate 673 Elected
MUSK, Lucy Labour Party 418
ROHALE, Ayesha Liberal Democrats 620

Turnout 38.25%. As you can see the result was close with only 53 votes in it. We hope the newly elected Councillor will represent Panshanger resident’s views when requested to at council meetings.  We also hope he will vote for resident’s best interests, rather than as directed by the leadership. Time will tell on that, but we wish him well.

Haldens Division in County Election (also encompassing Panshanger):

Name of Candidate Description (if any) Votes Elected
CHESTERMAN, Alan Labour Party 1,000
GADHVI, Sanjay UK Independence Party (UKIP) 175
GIBSON, Barbara Ann Liberal Democrats 1,595 Elected
JOHNSTON, Sara Louise Clare The Conservative Party Candidate 1,497

Turnout: 39.93%. We have a new Councillor at the county level, Barbara Gibson, who won the seat from the incumbent Sara Johnston. She will now represent our best interests at County Hall in Hertford. Well done to her, and we wish her well too.

We have not yet seen any statement from Cllr Mitchinson, but the below statement fro Cllr Gibson is available online. Our group, whilst not political, would certainly agree with her sentiments:

“In Haldens Division, this election was about residents being fed up with not being listened to by their elected representatives. People are tired of monopoly-like behaviour and fake consultations that ignore their concerns. They sent a clear message that it’s time for a change, and I’m looking forward to championing their issues.”

We have also seen a surge in traffic to this website since the Local Election campaigns got underway. The site has seen over 5,000 visits since the beginning of April. The site will continue to be updated with information about local issues our council’s Local Plan.

Update: April 30th 2017 – Council Meetings and two Local Elections (Borough and County)

Following the council meeting in March the full council subsequently met on April 10th to decide upon the Local Plan. As expected they pushed the current version through as is, despite vehement opposition from residents and the opposition parties. This draft plan will now be passed on to the government appointed inspector for approval. We are expecting that inspector to be named shortly. East Herts are in a similar position with their plan and they have had inspector Christine Thorby assigned to theirs. It could be that she will also become our inspector in due course as the WGC5 (‘Birchall Garden Suburb’) proposals are made jointly with East Herts.

The inspector will hold a series of hearings, probably at the council offices, in a few months time. This will hopefully be an opportunity for at least a few residents to have a say on this plan and be heard. That will be a first!

At the council meeting on 10th April the question that was asked and not answered on the 16th March was again put. Public questions to be asked at meetings usually appear in the agenda, however on this occasion the council put their prepared answer to the question in the agenda, and not the question. Proof if ever it were needed that the answers are pre-written. That answer was then read out by Councillor Perkins, but who actually penned it isn’t known. Did somebody say transparency? You can read the Q and A in the accompanying update, needless to say the answer didn’t address the many points raised in the question.

The council video recorded the meeting on the 16th March, but then didn’t record the meeting on the 10th April. There seems to be no rhyme or reason why some meetings are recorded and others are not. You will notice from the article in this week’s Welwyn & Hatfield Times that they continue to refuse to enable the recording/streaming function of the ‘future proofed’ camera equipment that has been in the new chamber since it opened about a year ago. Again, did somebody say transparency?

It’s election season, and on May 4th there is a borough election in Panshanger and county council election for everyone.  At this time of leaflets with bold claims and doorstepping by candidates, or their parties, it’s worth bearing in mind some facts. The Conservative party have the majority of seats in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) and at Hertfordshire County Council. This means any votes taken on local issues inevitably go their way. In WHBC they have an even greater dominance in numbers. Since this Local Plan process began in 2009 the Conservative councillors on the cabinet and planning committees have voted for this plan, never against it and never abstaining. Despite hundreds of residents asking them to oppose, it and despite petitions opposing it they have never acted to represent what their constituents who have lobbied them. The last petition regarding the council’s traveller site planned for Panshanger in the Local Plan, was only handed in on the night of  March 16th 2017. That same night Haldens and Panshanger councillors voted through this draft Local Plan, despite hearing from the petition and the petitioner only minutes earlier. Over the years since 2009 we have heard plenty of talk and promises, especially on the doorstep, but then seen absolutely no action from our leading party councillors in terms of their votes at council meetings, which is the only way they can make any real difference.

You may want to bear this in mind if they knock on your door this week. Former Welwyn Hatfield Times editor Terry Mitchinson is the Conservative candidate for Panshanger. He has never been a local councillor before and has thus never worked under the leadership regime before. He may think or say he will challenge the leadership, but many have said that over the years and many failed. Many have also stood down, which is why the seat he’s going for is now up for grabs.

We ask all those in Panshanger to consider the facts above and to challenge any claims made by prospective councillors for this election. The three councillor seats in Panshanger are all Conservative currently, for the reasons stated above this leads to no effective opposition to the leadership’s will, and from the track record of recent years very poor representation of local constituents with regard to the Local Plan process.

Check the facts for yourself if you are told things on the doorstep which do not add up. If you are unsure of any facts email us and we’ll try to help.

Most importantly we urge people to get out and vote on Thursday. Turnout is usually low for these elections but they are a chance to bring about a real change, a chance to have people in our County and Borough councils who will genuinely represent local people, and not fall prey to their party whip, at our expense.

Use your vote...

Use your vote…


 

Update 29th April: Question and Answer about the Local Plan Process

On the 16th March and the 10th April the following public question was asked at WHBC meetings. Below the question you can read their pre-written reply, see above for more context about the meeting:

Public question from our group:

“The Local  Plan is now almost three years behind schedule according to the Councils own timeline set out in 2012. The councils own figures show just under 3.5  thousand  responses were submitted the 2012 consultation on the subject.  The 2015 consultation later yielded  almost 5.5 thousand responses. But, you now state that the 2016 consultation attracted only 2,191 responses to the draft Local Plan, well under half the number for 2015. The figures speak for themselves, clearly not enough has been done to engage local residents in this process, as I’ve been saying for some years now. You also state there were  only 1,245 individuals and groups submitting all those responses in 2016. This represents barely one percent of the boroughs population. Does such a paltry figure demonstrate community involvement in the process?

Personally I don’t think so. Your new appendices documents are also telling. In them you  address every set of objections raised by that one per cent.  Your  written response to each objection ends with just two words: No Change. I counted ‘No Change’ repeated 811 times throughout the appendices,  by comparison I saw not a single instance of ‘will change’ or ‘change’. How can this be remotely described as listening to local communities ? You achieve a very poor one per cent response rate, you then you go on to dismiss practically every one of those responses.

I would really like to hear how you justify all of this? No doubt you will vote tonight to carry on regardless, and agree to submit this flawed Local Plan to the Independent Inspector anyway. On the grounds that it’s so overdue now, that you have to submit something, with collective fingers crossed. Is there anything you can say to stop me feeling that most of the borough’s residents have been shortchanged all along in this process? Ultimately it’s us who will pay the price for this plan, long after most of the decision makers here have moved on or retired.”

The WHBC response to the question:

“The Local Plan has over the course of its preparation been subject to a number of consultation events. Each of those consultations has demonstrated that there is a lack of consensus on what the plan should contain in particular with regard to the allocation of housing sites. The overriding requirement for the Local Plan is that it is sound. This means that it has to above all be justified by evidence, be effective in delivering a strategy, be consistent with national policy, and be ‘positively prepared’ and meet identified needs for development. Responses to each consultation have been carefully considered and changes have been made where possible as for example in response to the large numbers of people who wished to see a more even distribution of development around the Borough. Consultation on the Local Plan is not a referendum. Nevertheless it is worth noting that the number of respondents to the latest consultation has in fact increased from the number in 2015 (1,964 vs 1,603). This compares to around 320 respondents to St Albans’ 2015 Local Plan consultation, 2,472 respondents to the East Herts 2016 Local Plan consultation and 330 respondents to Broxbourne Borough Council’s 2016 Local Plan consultation. Finally, it is not correct to say that no changes are proposed following the most recent consultation. The schedule of modifications (Appendix B) recommends 148 minor amendments to the Local Plan, many of which have been suggested by respondents to the consultation.”

Comment on the above:

Their never will be a consensus on the allocation of housing sites, in WHBC or anywhere else. Developers want sprawling new estates in locations that are the most profitable for them, landowners want to get consent for as many homes as possible on their land to increase its value many fold. Local people want new housing in areas that will enhance and not detract from where they currently live. They want to know that all the infrastructure required by any development will be put in first and not done away with on funding grounds later.  A consensus is unrealistic, but they should acknowledge the thousands of objections to their plans for Panshanger and not just apply the mantra “No Change” to all of them, as they have done. There is no detailed plan showing how and when infrastructure will be built and paid for. We also know there will be gravel extraction in Panshanger, but we have virtually no details about that.

We are checking the facts presented above re St Albans and East Herts and will respond on those in due course. What is clear from the St Albans Council website and their Local Plan consultations is that they DID write a letter to all residents informing them of their consultation, and where events would be held. As far as we know WHBC have failed to this. Somewhat ironically their letter was sent from Tracey Harvey, their Head of Planning in October 2014, the same Tracey Harvey who was the Welwyn Hatfield Head of Planning until not long before that date. Neither she, nor her successor Colin Haigh, have sent out a similar notification letters to Welwyn Hatfield Residents, we have been short-changed. For reference her letter is Appendix 1, page 203 in this document.

We would be happy to be proved wrong on this last point of course.


 

 

Update: 7th April 2017 video of the housing cabinet meeting on March 16th.

At the council’s meeting on March 16th the draft Local Plan was presented by the planning department. They sought approval from the elected councillors on the panel to take this plan forward to the Independent Planning Inspector for final approval so it can start being implemented. This plan is already about three years late according to the council’s own timetable set out at the start of this process in 2009.

The panel of the 16th approved the plan, despite much objection from residents and opposition councillors on the night. The council have now released their recording of the meeting taken using their camcorder. We have added some titles and captions to that recording to try and explain what was going on at the meeting, as it’s not clear to those not very familiar with how these things work. You can watch it, in two parts, below.

The recording is a fine example of how valid objections from residents and councillors representing them are essentially ignored at these meetings, as they have been many times over the last seven years. It also shows how some councillors, who have been lobbied by their residents and asked not to vote in favour of the plan ignore their requests and vote it through anyway. The final vote resulted in the plan being pushed through 6-4 in favour. The four objecting being the Lib Dem and Labour Councillors, with the 6 Conservative Councillors voting for it, including Cllr Chapman for Haldens and Cllr Bennett for Panshanger.

The first 15 minutes of the recordings below show the public questions, this part is well worth watching. Question 1 accompanies the petition handed in by some Panshanger residents regarding the traveller site proposed in this draft Local Plan. Question 2 is the in-depth technical question stating why this plan will likely be found unsound by the Independent Planning Inspector. Question 3, asked by our group, is a question asking why residents views have not been taken into account throughout this process and why the council’s response to the objections we all made into the last consultation in 2016 ended with the remark ‘No Change’ repeated no less than 811 times throughout their document. The response to this third question by the chairman, Cllr Boulton, was that there was not enough time left to answer that question. He refused to answer it, despite repeated requests to do so by the public and some councillors alike. He no doubt already had the response written down for him to read out, and it would only have taken him a minute to do so as their scripted answers are always nothing if not brief. Nevertheless he didn’t, and the meeting then went on for another hour and three quarters, clearly there wasn’t a minute to spare! You can see this happen about 15 mins into the Part 1 video below.

This irony was seemingly lost on them, in that they wouldn’t answer a question from the public which asked why they had not done a lot more to genuinely listen and respond to the public in the first place. Local Democracy strikes again, not.

All is not lost though, at the end of the meeting they bowed to pressure and it was agreed that this third question will be asked again at the full council meeting on April 10th, and this time an answer will be read out, no doubt it will be brief and dismissive, as has become tradition. Why not come along and watch?

The videos are below, these are the council’s own recording but with comments and captions added, these are not sanctioned by the council.

Cabinet Panel Meeting part 1:

Cabinet Panel Meeting part 2:

The question asked at meeting that was not answered is below. An answer to it is expected at the full council meeting on the 10th April at 7:30pm in the council chamber.

“The Local Plan is now almost three years behind schedule according to the Councils own timeline set out in 2012. The councils own figures show just under 3.5 thousand responses were submitted the 2012 consultation on the subject. The 2015 consultation later yielded almost 5.5 thousand responses. But, you now state that the 2016 consultation attracted only 2,191 responses to the draft Local Plan, well under half the number for 2015. The figures speak for themselves, clearly not enough has been done to engage local residents in this process, as I’ve been saying for some years now. You also state there were only 1,245 individuals and groups submitting all those responses in 2016. This represents barely one percent of the boroughs population. Does such a paltry figure demonstrate community involvement in the process?

Personally I don’t think so. Your new appendices documents are also telling. In them you address every set of objections raised by that one per cent. Your written response to each objection ends with just two words: No Change. I counted ‘No Change’ repeated 811 times throughout the appendices, by comparison I saw not a single instance of ‘will change’ or ‘change’. How can this be remotely described as listening to local communities ? You achieve a very poor one per cent response rate, you then you go on to dismiss practically every one of those responses.

I would really like to hear how you justify all of this? No doubt you will vote tonight to carry on regardless, and agree to submit this flawed Local Plan to the Independent Inspector anyway. On the grounds that it’s so overdue now, that you have to submit something, with collective fingers crossed. Is there anything you can say to stop me feeling that most of the borough’s residents have been shortchanged all along in this process? Ultimately it’s us who will pay the price for this plan, long after most of the decision makers here have moved on or retired.”

 

Update 23rd March: Panshanger petition and new by-election May 4th:

At last weeks council meeting a petition was handed in objecting to the council’s continuing plan to include a new Traveller site among the proposed 650 home Panshanger development. The petitioner made very good points about the council’s lack of direct consultation with nearby residents. It remains the case that not a single letter has ever been posted out to Panshanger residents by the council justifying the plan for a new Traveller site, or asking for their input, as per national planning policy. The meeting chairman, Cllr Boulton representing Brookmans Park and Little Heath, responded with a scripted answer that did not not take into account local people’s views, nor local Traveller views for that matter. Instead he regurgitated planning policy which could have just as easily been read out by the head of planning, Colin Haigh. The chairman and member for Brookmans Park doesn’t have any concerns himself, perhaps because the Local Plan his party are pushing forward ensures there will be no new Traveller sites in his ward. A ward also represented by his  son, and the leader Mr Dean. Meanwhile their fellow party councillors representing Panshanger and Haldens  continue to support the Traveller site plans for Panshanger, despite local people lobbying them to speak out on their behalf and question the Local Plan on this and other grounds.

You can hear the well articulated question from the local petitioner, and the chairs autocratic  response below:

In other news…

It appears that Panshanger Conservative councillor Martyn Levitt has decided to stand down, for reasons unknown at this point. He was elected only last May (2016) and had several years of his term left to run. He won more votes than any other candidate in last year’s election, but seems to have said little publicly since that time. Despite the hot issue of the Local Plan and the many ways it will affect Panshanger residents. The council web site now carries the below notice:

Martin Levitt vacancy

Update March 21st: Video from council meeting on 17th March

Below you can watch the video of a well researched and detailed question being asked by a resident at the recent CHPP meeting which covered the Local Plan for Welwyn Hatfield. It describes in detail how the proposed Local Plan (including a new traveller site in Panshanger) is likely to be found unsound by the Independent Planning Inspector. The council’s response is very brief and doesn’t cover most of the concerns raised by the questionner.  The panel of councillors later went on to vote for pushing ahead with this Local Plan and submitting it to the Planning Inspector in coming months. The panel voted 6-4 in favour, with two of those in favour being Haldens and Panshanger councillors (Chapman and Bennett). You can watch proceedings below, apologies for the low audio level.

 

Update March 16th: Quick summary of CHPP Meeting.

Last night the council’s planning panel met to review the Local Plan and next steps. The public gallery was full up, although that only holds about 50 people. Key points below, more to follow later:

A petition was handed in from local residents with over 500 signatures objecting to the plans for a traveller site in Panshanger and the lack of any direct consultation with local people. A question was also asked by a resident making the points set out in the petition.

A second question from the public  went in to details about exactly why the current plan would most likely be found unsound by the planning inspector. Articulate, technical and informed this was very compelling and you would have thought put an element of doubt, if not fear, into those who were preparing to vote on going ahead with this plan. That question will appear on this site soon.

A third question, from ourselves  was read out, but because the 15 minutes for questions had run out by the end of it the chairman, Cllr Boulton decided that he couldn’t read out the scripted and no doubt brief answer that had been prepared. This was met with consternation by several other councillors who saw the unfairness of that decision, and perhaps the irony that the question was essentially about how residents’ views had been ignored throughout the Local Plan process, and here they were now in the flesh, again paying little heed to residents. Proving exactly the point made in the question. At the end of the meeting it was conceded by  Cllr Boulton that the question would be asked again at the next full council meeting  and this time an answer given. We are grateful to those spoke out to request that an answer was given to our question, and quite gobsmacked that it was not possible to spare a minute or two to read it out last night. A fourth question from a resident was not asked or responded to on the grounds of time.

The outcome?

As anticipated the panel voted 6 to 4 in favour of pressing ahead with submitting the current plans, possibly with minor modifications, to the Planning Inspector. Despite compelling arguments made for adopting a different approach when it came to the vote the Conservative councillor majority all voted it through. One or two spoke in criticism of it, including recently elected Haldens Councillor Chapman. However, despite appearing to empathise with residents he did not follow up his words with actions and voted it through anyway. We have seen this many times over the years with local councillors, appearing to side with local people and then voting anyway for the thing they had just been decrying. The most powerful and important thing a councillor can do for their residents is to vote for what they want, not vote against it!

So things now roll on with the planning team having been delegated powers to amend the plan and submit a version of it without having to come back to any council committee for scrutiny and oversight of it. It would appear the council is really going out on a limb here, if the plan is found unsound it will be a very costly and embarrassing mistake, no doubt there would be calls for heads to roll. We will continue to press home the deficiencies and unfairness of this Local Plan, your ongoing support is very welcome.

More to follow.

Update:12th March 2017:  Local Plan end game approaches, council meeting this Thursday 16th at 7:30pm.

This coming Thursday evening at 7:30 in the council chamber the next steps in the Local Plan process will be presented by the Planning Department and the elected members will be presented with two main options towards finalising the Local Plan. You may remember this process began back in 2009 and several consultations later, with very little having been changed despite thousands of local objections, we are now reaching the end game.

Summary of changes following the public consultation last year:

Virtually no changes for WGC sites. The airfield site and Hilly Fields meadow remain allocated for 650 houses. The plan includes a new traveller site within that, most likely at the Springmead school end.

The Birchall Garden Suburb scheme proposed by Tarmac remains, despite many objections and fears raised about long-standing contamination fears (See this informative document) and concerns about habitats and the Green Corridor.

There is no change to the position on a re-aligned airfield option.

There are no acknowledged changes regarding concerns about traffic, schools, services, infrastructure or wildlife.

Several appendices list all the objections and concerns, hundreds of them. Practically all are dismissed by WHBC planning department, and then marked as ‘No change’.

It is ironic that the old planning regime, the East of England Region Assembly, was done away with because it represented a top down government approach to planning for housing. It was replaced with the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012. The foreword of that document by Greg Clarke MP states:

“In part, people have been put off from getting involved because planning policy itself has become so elaborate and forbidding – the preserve of specialists, rather than people in communities. This National Planning Policy Framework changes that. By replacing over a thousand pages of national policy with around fifty, written simply and clearly, we are allowing people and communities back into planning.”

It’s clear that what we are now witnessing in Welwyn Hatfield is that communities are being ignored, we have not been allowed back into planning at all. The local housing targets under the NPPF are far higher than they were under the old system, and yet nobody can tell us how the Objective Assessed Need figure was calculated. Our evidence is that local communities involvement has been nothing more than a tick-box exercise.

If further proof was needed that WHBC planning pays little attention to public views and concerns then these appendices offer it in spades:

 

These two extracts from the new Local Plan submission document are worth noting:

“3.4 Preceding this latest consultation there have been a number of consultation events from workshops for targeted groups to wider consultation events open to all. Statements of consultation have been produced for these events which summarise the issues raised and the Council’s response.”

and:

“4.3 It is considered that the Plan has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) and the Regulations. Section 3 above sets out the engagement that has taken place upon what the Plan should contain (Regulation 18) and the Draft Proposed Submission Plan (Regulation 19).”

We have long contended there there have been no workshops for targeted groups over the last seven years. Indeed at one point we asked the head of planning to arrange one and we were told it would not happen. We would like to see proof in the form of agendas, minutes and action points, that prove these ever happened, until then, we don’t believe they did.

The SCI as adopted by WHBC is vague and lacking detail in comparison to many other local council equivalents. However, even its own requirements are not met. There is no evidence that they sought and managed to involve ‘hard to reach groups’, certainly not the traveller community. They also even state that “the lack of responses from age groups who the Plan would ultimately benefit through increased housing supply is of some concern”. On the one hand they admit they have not done enough to engage a wider section of the community, yet on the other they ignore this fact and carry on regardless. With this and manifold other deficiencies in the Local Plan as it stands we feel there is a clear possibility that it be found unsound.

There is a good description of the Local Plan process on the CPRE website HERE. We are at at Step 6 in this process.

The planning team will be asking the housing and planning committee to decide on one of the below options on Thursday:

a) Delaying the plan while the problems with it are sorted out, which includes the infrastructure building, habitat protection, locations of the sites, and the fact that the government may change the formula that determines how many homes are needed, possibly lowering the target.

b) Carry on regardless of the above and submit the Plan to the government’s appointed inspector  with an option to make minor modifications if required. They accept this risks the Plan being found unsound, and so rejected by the inspector. Whereupon they would have to do a lot more work before re-submission.

It seems highly likely, based on past performance, that the committee will vote for option b.

You can read the full document that’s been prepared to guide the councillors by clicking HERE. You can read all the newly produced documents HERE.

Option b does leave them open to having to quickly resolve a range of outstanding issues. However, we are very aware that there is a gulf between saying you have done things, and actually having done them. We will be watching very closely to make sure all their claims can be verified with facts. Many other groups will be doing the same, and will also be want to bring them to the attention of the government inspector when this is put before him. The inspector will hold hearings locally where we hope some residents will be able to have their say on the deficiencies of this plan and the way it has been produced, with little genuine local participation.

People can  come along to witness the decision taken at the meeting on Thursday at the council offices. We know that most people feel excluded from this process, the last and most important public consultation had a very low response rate. About 1,207 individual consultees responded, this is barely 1% of the borough’s population. In addition there were comments from 53 agents acting for other groups such as housing developers, landowners, local and national groups and agencies. WHBC seems to be far more concerned about the objections from some of the agencies who raise  well founded objections in several areas.  Herts County Council have also raised objections.

It’s disappointing that the 17 page report does not give any weight at all to the thousands of objections by individuals, very many of them local people who will be impacted by this plan. Despite the Localism Act 2011 designed to increase local participation in decision making it seems that the thousands of objections and concerns raised by local people since 2009 are routinely ignored. We hope that the planning inspector will not ignore the very valid concerns of residents.

At the end of all this, well paid professionals at the council might have something to add to their CV’s for when they move on to pastures new, but it is we who will have to live with the consequences of their actions for the years and decades to come. We hope they consider this reality.

Please do consider coming along this Thursday, and please review some of the documents discussed here. It would be helpful if our council were to record and stream this meeting so that residents could watch from home, just as many of our neighbouring council’s already do. However, despite having installed the cameras and equipment in the new council chamber they seem determined not to fully use it and will not press the record button.  It may look like proceedings are being recorded to attendees, but actually they are not. You surely have to ask why this might be? (You could of course also argue that this also goes against the council’s own Statement of Community Involvement).

Below is a chart showing where consultation respondents came from, as you can see it is a very mixed bag. Cuffley as a mainly rural area has done remarkably well in terms of the level of responses despite it’s low percentage of overall population. Word about the consultation was obviously well propagated in that part of the borough.

Respondents by area

Respondents by area.

It’s still worth remembering the written pledge from Cllr Trigg a  few  years back:

Trigg pledge pre-election 2014

He remains a cabinet member but has still not taken any action at committee meetings to oppose his council’s plan for the airfield and surrounding area.

Lastly, there is a useful petition open at the moment under the government’s E-petition portal “Give communities back the right to decide where houses are built” You can find it here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/177333


 

 

October 22nd:

You only have until 5:00PM this Monday to make your comments into the consultation, it’s the final push!

The Green Corridor Group are very concerned about WHBC’s stated plan for a Green Corridor, as described in the current consultation, section 12.25 in the plan document.  They have produced an excellent response document that raises many concerns and that they believe makes the plan unjustified and unsound. This document contains many good arguments supporting their case,  you may wish to look at it when thinking about your own comments, particularly in relation to ecology and wildlife.

Please do download and/or read it by clicking HERE.  It really is very detailed and well informed.

There is an updated version of the document criticising WHBC’s community involvement in plan making. This can readily be used to help raise objections to the local plan consultation on grounds of soundness, as they haven’t followed their own policy on engaging with residents, and that their policy on this is flawed anyway. You can find it by clicking HERE.

The only WHBC event held as a workshop or focus group during the plan period was billed as a Visioning event and described as a stakeholder workshop at point 14.6 in the Local Plan document. It was not a Local Plan making event, it did not specifically look at the local plan. The official notes from the event can be read: HERE and HERE.  You will note they do not not mention Panshanger and that only about 10 people actually attended as town residents, the rest being developers and the like. In almost seven years of developing this plan this one event is touted as proof of  community involvement. Members of our group were there and while it was interesting, it fell far short from actually involving Panshanger residents in the development of the Local Plan we are now faced with.

The key section regarding Panshanger is at section 14.30 in the plan, see below, click to enlarge.

sp18-panshanger


 

 October 8th:

There is a new and useful document that details how WHBC have not properly engaged with residents as the Local Plan process and consultations have gone along. This is important as it challenges the soundness and justification for the currently Local Plan in consultation. There are sections of this that could be used for your comments into the consultation if you wished, please feel free to share it with others.

Please do download and read it by clicking here!

As of now there are 184 comments shown in response to the Local Plan consultation. None of them are specifically about Panshanger so far.  You can download a PDF file containing all comments up until today by clicking here.


 

September 25th: Council ‘Drop-in’ event last Thursday.

Panshanger Welwyn Garden City

Just part of what will be lost.

Volunteers from Panshanger People attended the Local Plan consultation drop-in last Thursday (22nd). We were there for almost the entire 4 hours and spoke to almost everyone who came along, and gave them a handout offering further help on how to comment into this complex consultation. Speaking to people outside it was clear that there remains a lot of opposition to the current plan. We mostly spoke to people after they had seen the exhibition, they invariably seemed as confused and as frustrated by the process as they were went they went in. It was clear to us that there remains huge opposition to the council’s plan, not least because of the impact it will have on the existing area, and the lack of any coherent details as to what infrastructure will be built, when, and even how it might be funded.  We estimated that probably under 80 people attended over the 4 hours, well under half the number of previous such consultations.

Why might the turnout have been so low?  Before previous drop-in events we leafleted every home in Panshanger and had several weekend stalls outside Moors Walk shops, raising awareness of the council’s drop-in event. We did this because WHBC had continually failed to inform residents in the necessary way. In fact for doing this ourselves we have been labelled a ‘Pressure Group’ by WHBC, when in fact we are doing their job for them as they seem unable to do it properly themselves. We didn’t carry out these activities this time around, and we believe the poor attendance last week proves that far better community engagement is needed, as per WHBC’s own policy on the subject states it should be.

It may also be that residents feel like giving up, many have spent a lot of time commenting into previous consultations and they feel they have been ignored every time. Many have told us they feel that commenting, yet again, will be a further waste of time as nothing changes.  This may be true, however, this time around the Planning Inspector will be reviewing your comments, so it’s now more important than ever that we give him something worth reading.  We need a good quantity of comments, but also comments of quality. As frustrating as it has been to be ignored by the Planning Department year after year, now is also the time to take them to task for not responding to what residents want. National Policy states  they have to listen to and work with local communities, if they don’t do that sufficiently we should shout loudly about it!


 

September 22nd:

Below is an extract from an email that came into Panshanger People from a local resident a  couple of weeks ago. She is happy for it to be quoted on our website, you can read it below. It’s posted here because it captures very well the frustration many residents have about the lack of Councillor representation,  and the failure of WHBC to make sure everybody is aware of the consultation, and the complexity involved in commenting, even if you are aware of it. The final comment about not being listened to is very pertinent, we will shortly have more to say about that, watch this space.

“I had a long conversation with our councillors before the elections in the spring and they both promised vehemently to support local opinion.  So much for that!   I was particularly concerned over the summer as the press reports were misleading and this consultation period is relatively short.  Even now some of our neighbours are not aware of the latest proposals.  The possible gravel extraction is another looming danger.   I read the Council’s website last week and became even more confused – the consultation process seems to require such a complex and time consuming effort that I wonder how many people will make it through to make a comment.  It would also seem that the Council have made it so to put people off, and I don’t agree that one comment from each community group, rather than from individuals, will give the Inpsector the full picture.   In that respect I think most people will very much appreciate guidance from Panshanger People as to how we should comment, not least a summary of events in the form of a timetable as to how we have not been listened to.”

– Panshanger resident via email.


September 17th: Congestion at Moors Walk

moors-walk-17th-sep-noon

The everyday congestion at Moors Walk shops, how will it fare with thousands of new residents also trying to park here?

If all the proposed housing in the Panshanger/Haldens went ahead it would mean an extra 808 homes locally.

650 on the airfield site
110 on the Ratcliff Tail Lifts site
28 on Bericot Way (beside the care home now under construction)
20 on Waterside of Mundells

In the current plans there is nothing actually provisioned in terms in services and infrastructure to support all this, of course it doesn’t all have to be in place at the start of the plan period, but there is meant to be defined and costed plan for what will be built in the first years of the plan. Information about that seems very lacking in the council’s Infrastructure Delivery Plan document.


 

The consultation this time around is much more tightly focused. Objections must be one of two categories, you have to complete the following when making comments:

Are your comments about soundness, if so:

You must decide which box to tick!

You must decide which box to tick above!

Or/and is it about the legality of the plan:

You must choose which box above.

You must choose which box above.

You might think you’d have to be planning expert to know much about this, you might think it couldn’t be much harder to engage with this consultation…you’d be right! WHBC have given very little guidance about what soundness means, and even less about legal compliance. Residents are certainly disadvantaged by the scant information they have been offered. You can however quickly pick up the basics of both areas and decide how you can relate them to your plan consultation comments.

Please read this about plan soundness from the Planning Advisory service.

Please read this about plan legality from the Planning Advisory service.

There is also a very useful document known as the Harman report, which has a lot information about what Local Plans should include. It’s clear reading this that WHBC’s plan as it stands falls short in several areas. Below is an overview graphic from it, you can download the whole document here.

harman-report-economics

 

Comments in this final consultation need careful consideration to prevent them being discounted as irrelevant on grounds of soundness or legality. You have until October 24th to comment. Do not feel obliged to fill out a comment form at the event on the 22nd, if you cannot be sure it meets the criteria. We will offer more specific guidance on what areas to comment on in coming weeks. You cannot look at what others have commented on, as almost three weeks into the consultation not one single comment has yet been posted on the consultation portal. Is this a ploy to prevent people inspiring each other, or is it just poor practice, either way residents are again being let down by the council’s lack of pro-active engagement.

As we now know there are plans for six traveller pitches, on the Hilly Fields end of the proposed development. There is virtually no detail as to how the travellers and show people housing needs assessment was carried out. This should be part of the supporting documents in the consultation, but it’s absent. You may recall how the Mariposa exhibitions didn’t include any pitches, but it was soon discovered that WHBC had asked Mariposa to put them in (although they denied this at first). Mariposa had left them out of their public exhibition and was remaining tight lipped (almost) on the subject.

It turns out the updated travellers housing needs assessment can be found elsewhere on the council’s website, you can find it here. It’s worth reading as there seems to have been no actual dialogue with the traveller community in the borough about what they would want to see. Other local authorities seem to have interviewed dozens of travellers to assess their needs but WHBC seems to have failed to do this, and instead had come up with its own best guess estimate. For all the talk of engaging hard to reach groups this seems very poor indeed. It’s also worth remembering they have never attempted to engage with residents living near the proposed Panshanger site either, to seek their views. It’s no surprise that this proposed draft plan doesn’t include any pitches around the southern villages, or northern sections of the borough, there’s a lot of open green space in those areas of course.

Birchall Garden Suburb (WGC5)

The Welwyn Garden City Society has collected together its findings on the history of the rubbish dump at Cole Green. They have produced a paper which raises some real concerns about contamination on the land and the lack independent examination of the site. The site surveys done on behalf of the land owners Tarmac contain findings of Asbestos and several chemicals harmful to human health. WHBC however is pushing forward and proposing 1250 homes on the site. Tarmac’s plans include a country park and recreational area directly on top of the historic landfill dump that was in operation for 70 years. The document also contains some interesting history and anecdotes about the site.

You can download their report here.


 

3rd September. Consultation links:

Balancing Logo WHBC

Guide for Respondents – Read this before entering your responses! It’s all about ‘Soundness’ and legality this time around.

Soundness is defined as:

Tests of Soundness

Short WHBC FAQ about the consultation. Worth a quick to recap why this is happening.

Online Portal Help Page, to help you get started making comments online and understand the process (Good luck!)


Summary Guide to the Local Plan (10mb).  Good for an overview but short on detail.


Main consultation document starting point for adding your comments online commenting possible within each section of the online document.

Supporting Documents Link, also includes the display boards to be used at Consultation ‘Drop-ins’.


Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan August 2016 online commenting possible within each section of the online document.


Draft Local Plan Proposed Submission Habitats Regulations Assessment Report.  They have designed this so the entire document PDF must be opened separately from accessing the comment form (Part B), then you will have to submit one fully referenced comment at a time. Complex and not very accessible for a 107 page document, but this subject is important for Panshanger.


Draft Local Plan Proposed Submission Sustainability Appraisal.   This is also designed this so the entire document PDF must be opened separately from accessing the comment form (Part B), you will have to submit one fully referenced comment at a time. Complex and not very accessible for a 184 page document, but this subject is important. The file size is also large at 18mb, but don’t be put off commenting just because they’ve made it unnecessarily difficult!

Supporting Sustainability Documents link – These are the evidence base for the above and may contain challengable statements that lead to issues with the Sustainability Appraisal that you may want to comment on.


Welwyn Garden City Settlement Policy – You can comment on this from here once registered


Entire Local Plan Consultation Document for download (PDF,  large 64mb)


Link to downloadable maps of each site in the borough (Note that the Moors Walk map is out date, still showing the Oak Tavern)

Errata document showing the corrected Panshanger (WGC4) map with 650 homes (Incl 6 traveller pitches) and no incursion into the Green Belt.


Panshanger People will add some more suggestions about how and what to comment one in coming weeks.

Please contact us with any specific questions re Panshanger, or contact the council of course, feel free to us know what they tell you.

 

26th August 2016: Important Update

The next and, probably, final Local Plan public consultation is set to begin on Tuesday 30th August and will take place over an eight week period, ending at 5pm on Monday 24th October 2016. From WHBC:

“The Draft Local Plan and Policies Map; the Sustainability Appraisal, the Habitats Regulations Assessment Report and the Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan, together with a summary guide to the Draft Local Plan and guidance notes for making a representation, the Statement of Consultation and the Statement of Representations Procedure can be viewed at http://www.welhat.gov.uk/localplan from the 30th August 2016 when the consultation event commences.”

We will also have links and comments about those documents and the current plans here.

This consultation has been delayed. What is very notable is that the August Local Plan update from the council contained the below text:

“This is the final opportunity to make representations before the Local Plan is submitted for independent examination by a government appointed Planning Inspector. This consultation on the Proposed Submission Local Plan differs from previous consultations as legally, at this stage, you may only make representations on whether the Local Plan has been prepared in accordance with legal requirements and whether it is “sound”. The Inspector will look at whether the Council has met the legal requirements for the preparation of the Plan and whether it meets what are known as the “tests of soundness”, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).”

In the July 16th Local Plan update there was no mention at all that we only make comments as to whether the proposed plan is sound in planning terms. It seems the council have recently decided to move the goal posts in their favour, presumably so that they can discount a large swathe of objections that don’t specifically address the issue of ‘soundness’. We are not all planning law experts and by making this consultation tightly focused on planning law aspects they presumably hope a certain amount of the long standing objections can be ignored.  However, the Planning Inspector will be looking at this plan closely, and looking at what local groups and residents have said about it. We can and will raise a number of valid objections to the Plan, more about that will follow.

There is a very useful short 5 min video from the Planning Inspectorate about how Local Plans are judged. It states the importance of listening to local people and local participation as part of ‘soundness’. We see good grounds to challenge WHBC actions over the last few years and the resulting current plans on these grounds. Please do watch the below video:

We are now 7 years on from when this all started, and this will be the 4th consultation in that time. At each consultation thousands of objections have been submitted. Despite all of this the plans for Panshanger are almost entirely unchanged and many of the objection points raised have not been addressed at all in the interim. Indeed, there has not been one public meeting or workshop arranged by the council to discuss all the local concerns and enter into any form of inclusive debate. There has only been the council’s very limited roadshows presenting artists’ impressions and very little solid information, and certainly no debate on the issues.

This is now the final hurdle, the last chance for residents to have their say. Consultation fatigue will have set in, people are tired of making the same old objections. But most of those objections are still valid as the council has not listened and acted on them following previous consultations. This is a point to be made clear to the Planning Inspector. Therefore, it is essential that residents add their comments to this final consultation, even if you said the same back in 2009, 2012, 2014. Many of those comments will also be applicable to the ‘soundness’ test.

We will provide a lot more information about commenting on this consultation in coming weeks. In summary the plans for Panshanger are 650 homes, leaving a small space at the northern side of the site, for perhaps a small airstrip, if one can be proven viable, which is currently unknown. A traveller site is also part of the plans, you will remember that Mariposa denied this was part of the plan at their exhibition earlier this year, but it then turned out to be true. When the council was asked at a recent CHPP committee meeting how many pitches they envisaged would be on the new site they would not comment. It will be interesting to see whether the consultation documents does put a number on it. It appears there is still no plan for how and when infrastructure will be built, and how it will be paid for.

Remember you can contact us a panshangerpeople@gmail.com, please join our mailing list from the menu on the right if you haven’t done so already.

Watch this space!

 

16th June 2016: The final Local Plan will not be signed off until late 2017.

The latest proposals will now go forward to be voted on by the Council Cabinet (probably next month). Only one of the seven members lives in WGC, they will be under pressure to approve the plans for Panshanger.

There will be a public consultation August/September – Residents can make the same points as in 2012/2014, little has changed.

Examination in public of the plan by independent inspector in Spring 2017, it will then be will be found sound or unsound. Local groups can make representations to the inspector, we shall take this opportunity.

As you can see several more hoops are yet to be jumped through, community participation has to be part of the process. If local people continue to be ignored this fact will be highlighted.

13th June 2016: WHBC panel meeting to debate what will go forward to the consultation due in the summer – what happened?

About 100 people, residents and developers, came along to watch the meeting last night. It was recorded by the council using a basic camcorder, hopefully that will appear on their website before long. As usual 15mins were allotted at the beginning of the meeting for questions from residents, after 15 minutes only about half the listed questions had been asked, each of them being met with a mostly unconvincing scripted answer read out by the chair, Stephen Boulton (Brookmans Park and Little Heath). Panel member councillor Malcolm Cowan (Peartree) requested an extension to the 15mins at this point so all public questions could be heard, but was refused by the chair Stephen Boulton. The chair clearly wasn’t happy with the idea of allowing ‘we the people’ an opportunity to have our say. There was no reason why this couldn’t have happened. Members of Panshanger People managed to get one question answered, we had submitted a few more which they ‘didn’t have time for’.

Head of Planning, Colin Haigh, then presented the facts and figures of the new draft plan using Powerpoint. He only referred to places by their classification on the plan, Hat5, GTL001, WGC4, etc. This made it hard for some members of the public to follow where he was talking about, why couldn’t he use place names that people recognise? Panshanger was discussed and no mention of traveller pitches was made, even though they do appear on the plan he produced.

After all of this, members of the panel (not the public) were allowed to ask questions about it. Some made very good points, and some less so. Cllr Duncan Bell (Hatfield Villages) was unequivocal that traveller sites should not be placed within new developments, but elsewhere, applying this to both Hatfield and WGC (Panshanger). Councillor Hayes (Hatfield Central) asked about possible gravel extraction on Panshanger. He was told that their probably would be gravel extraction on the site, but the extent of it is up to HCC to decide and they have not yet said how limited or extensive it might be. The issue of the stated traveller pitches came up, it was said that these were part of the plan for 650 homes on the site, but there seemed to be confusion over how many pitches when that was asked about. It is worth remembering that the Mariposa exhibition contained nothing about traveller pitches, and yet we know that both planning and Marisposa’s representatives had been factoring this in before their exhibition took place.

Councillors Malcolm Spinks (Haldens) and Darren Bennett (Panshanger) also spoke out in defence of Panshanger and the airfield, questioning what is now being proposed in the new plan. This was promising, but ultimately pointless….

At the end a vote was taken among the panel as to whether this draft plan should go forward as it stands for public consultation in the summer. The voting was 6 in favour and 4 against. One more against and the panel would have been split. Sadly the people of our area were scuppered again as both the Haldens and Panshanger  councillors voted in favour of the plan, despite challenging it only minutes before. This is the depressing state of our ‘local democracy’. Councillors of the leading party seemed to have been instructed which way to vote prior to the meeting. Our councillors voted for the very thing they had just been critical of.

We had hoped that the shiny new councillor for Haldens wouldn’t toe the line as the others do, but this was not to be and he fell in line.

Here is the question a member of our group asked, followed by a summary of the scripted reply, which really doesn’t answer the question.

“We are soon to go into this council’s fourth consultation asking us where new homes should go. The council had a lot of feedback in the last three consultations asking for more balance in the distribution of homes. However, yet again things are heavily focused on WGC and Hatfield, with Welwyn Garden being ‘objectively assessed’ as needing almost 45% of all new homes until 2032. Although your current distribution proposals don’t manage that 45% what is clear is that other parts of the borough fail to meet their percentage contribution by a massive margin. Cuffley for example is deemed to require only 4% of all new homes, and yet these proposals show that only a about a fifth of that 4% is currently projected. Brookmans Park similar with a contribution needed of only 3% but these proposals show only about a tenth of that amount is currently projected. Yet again we strongly question whether balance is be seen to be achieved in the figures you will be discussing tonight, does this panel feel that a proper balance has been achieved in these latest papers?

It’s well known that many thousands of responses were received to the previous consultations on this subject. A large proportion of these objected to the proposals, and objected to the plans for so many homes in Panshanger, especially because their was no evidence as to when or how the required supporting infrastructure would be built. That remains exactly the same for these new proposals. If members of the panel took it upon themselves to visit Moors Walk any day of the week they would see how oversubscribed it is now, and what a chaos would ensue if thousands more people were to be living nearby and new schools built, all of them using these facilities.

Despite the many valid objections since 2009, why does this council not take them on board?  Consulting people means taking account of what they say, the Localism Act and NPPF confirm this, if consultations are just used as a box ticking exercise then it seems obvious that those new and forward thinking pieces of legislation are being roundly ignored in respect of community participation in planning. What is the panels view of that?”

Summary of answer given:

The purpose of the Local Plan is to respond to different opportunities for achieving sustainable development after assessing all available sites. Proportional distribution across the borough is only a mathematical starting point. If there are not enough achievable sites in the borough or there are infrastructure constraints with some of them a proportionate distribution across the borough will not be possible, and may not represent the most appropriate distribution of housing.

They seem to be saying that while a balance across the borough would be nice to have, they can find many reasons to try and justify why this doesn’t have to happen. The new plan clearly does not balance housing housing across the borough, as the question above shows. Just as it wasn’t balanced last time around or the time before that. It was a bit rich that at the end of the meeting councillor Bell made the comment that balance is now seen to be achieved with this plan. It clearly isn’t, and we will seek to show that as things move forward from here.

Note: This meeting concluded on Monday, there will not be a follow up on Wednesday night as was initially penciled in.

Below is an extract from the new WHBC document which seeks to set out where they think new housing would go in the borough, if the allocations were to be proportionate.

Proportionate distribution as per WHBC June 2016

________________________________________________________

IMPORTANT UPDATE 3RD JUNE 2016 – LATEST DRAFT LOCAL PLAN RELEASED.

Hillyfields Meadow June 2016 1024

HEADLINE FACTS:

  • Option 2: Panshanger airfield and Hillyfields Meadow ‘Should be considered for allocation’ with either 650 homes, including Gypsy and Traveller Pitches plus primary school, with no changes to the Green Belt.

  • Option 3: Panshanger airfield and Hillyfields Meadow ‘Should be considered for allocation’ with either 725 homes, including Gypsy and Traveller Pitches plus primary school, with changes to the Green Belt.

  • An option 1 is not mentioned at all, what happened to that?

  • It recommends 28 homes should go on the small strip of land beside the Bericot Way Care Home, currently under construction.

  • The parcel of land opposite Moors Walk shops is shown on the new map as area for housing ‘Pan02’, but it is not referenced anywhere in the document wording.

In advance of the two council committee meetings to consider the updated Local Plan (13th & 15th June), which will go out public consultation ‘in the summer’ a report pack has appeared on the council’s website showing what is now being proposed, including for Panshanger. You may recall that there have been three public consultations about this since 2009, this will be fourth, and probably final one. At each consultation the council’s assumptions and information has been challenged. Thousands of comments have been submitted by residents  into each consultation, most of them objecting to the plans. Including objections asking why local residents previous objections have not made an iota of difference to what the council proposes.

Disappointingly the same has happened yet again. All those thousands of comments submitted back in Jan-March 2015 have made absolutely no difference to what is now proposed for Panshanger, if anything the proposition has got worse for local residents.

Consider the foreword to Goverment’s National Planning Policy Framework  legislation by Minister for Planning Greg Clark in 2012:

“In recent years, planning has tended to exclude, rather than to include, people and communities. In part, this has been a result of targets being imposed, and decisions taken, by bodies remote from them. Dismantling the unaccountable regional apparatus and introducing neighbourhood planning addresses this.

In part, people have been put off from getting involved because planning policy itself has become so elaborate and forbidding – the preserve of specialists, rather than people in communities. This National Planning Policy Framework changes that. By replacing over a thousand pages of national policy with around fifty, written simply and clearly, we are allowing people and communities back into planning.”

It is evident to us that our community is very much being shut out of planning. Government policy it seems is not being applied here.
Residents may know that the council’s new meeting chamber costing over £700,000 was recently opened for council business. Committee meetings, including those on the 13th & 15th should be taking place there. This chamber also included recording/streaming facilities. However, because the council is expecting more than a handful of residents to turn up to witness the ‘debate’ on the 13th and 15th, they are holding it back at the external venue in Mundells, where there is apparently more room for the public.  This is poor considering the council’s statement about the new chamber not long ago “This is set to be the borough’s first ever purpose built council chamber, and it has been designed to meet the needs of residents now and in the future.” (Then Cllr Alan Franey). Clearly, having just opened, the chamber is not meeting the needs of residents. This means that all these important meetings concerning the future of Panshanger will not be properly recorded for the public to see, despite the equipment being bought and installed. Convenient?
Therefore we encourage people to attend these meetings to show that despite our input into the consultations being routinely ignored, people still want a voice in  all this, as the law states they should have. Lastly, we know that the council’s planners met with the elected leadership a few weeks ago in a meeting to discuss this new plan. It wasn’t open to the public nor are any minutes available. It may well be that this plan has already largely been given the thumbs up by most of those attending to vote on the matter on the 13th and 15th. We cannot say for sure of course as this all happened behind closed doors.  We recall that last time around both CHPP and Cabinet committees went through the motions, and nodded through the then plans at these meetings, despite a high public turnout.
We will have more to say about all this in coming days. Here are the tables concerning Panshanger (click to enlarge):

Scenario 2:

WGC4 Scenario 2 1024

Scenario 3:

WGC4 Scenario 3 1024

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3rd April: Letter to the Welwyn & Hatfield Times

The most recent edition of the WHT (30th March) carried a letter from our group. In it we are critical of the recent Mariposa exhibition, and the fact that what was presented as the current plan was knowingly inaccurate. The next public consultation is due over the summer and the next draft of the local plan should be available in the next three months. Keep watching this space for more about that.

We hope that the next version of the plan will finally acknowledge local people’s views about Panshanger’s future. We’ve been campaigning on this for a few years now, despite this the council’s plans have not wavered and our elected members have not acted to challenge the council’s plans. In fact they have pushed through their own changes to make matters worse.

Our letter can be read below:

Dear Sirs,

Your headline last week “Fury over huge homes plans” and associated article accurately captured the feelings of local residents on this important issue. The Local Plan process has been going on for some years now and at every public consultation there has been widespread objections to the council’s proposals, usually for sound and sensible reasons. These council consultations are clearly just box ticking exercises as despite much local objection they just carry on regardless, going down the same path they have been pursuing for years. We’ve seen twice in recent years that the council’s elected cabinet are willing and happy to override the advice and guidance from the planning department as to where new housing should be put within the borough. Local people feel very unrepresented on this issue. The apparently hidden agenda of the council’s leadership continues to win the day, leaving residents feeling they might as well give up and go home.

The Mariposa exhibition about Panshanger airfield last week only served to add to this despondency. This is probably the third one of these exhibitions I’ve been to over the years and Mariposa’s plans haven’t changed at all, despite much local opposition, such as that voiced on your front page last week. Our local group Panshanger People has sought to keep residents informed on this issue in recent years, and to make sure Mariposa and the planning department are well aware of the local consensus view. Disappointingly however it seems we have not been kept in the picture either by the planning department, Mariposa, or the Homes & Communities Agency who own the western half of the site.

It could be argued that last week’s Panshanger exhibition was actually null and void as they did not present the full picture to the public. Many people were asking about any plans to include a traveller site in the development? They were told that there were no plans for this by the promoters. However, one of the professionals representing Mariposa let slip that actually the council had been in touch with them recently asking them to include a traveller site within the proposal, and that’s what they were now working on. This was not shown anywhere in Mariposa’s plans, and indeed our group was told by the planning department only the previous week,  that any plans for the site are down to the developer, and not the council. Clearly that is not actually the case; the planning department HAD made this request to them (which they subsequently confirmed). Why hold this exhibition knowing that it doesn’t offer a true picture of what’s being planned for the site? Why isn’t the planning department being a lot more open about their intentions for the site?

Whether it’s a traveller site, a swimming pool, or a shopping centre is somewhat irrelevant. The fact is we as residents should be kept properly informed about the plans for this site, not kept in the dark as we have been. Likewise, there is little point holding public consultations if people’s very valid views are acknowledged, but then not acted upon at all.

This Summer there will be yet another consultation by the council and again thousands of objections will be received, no doubt yet again they will fall on deaf ears. Ultimately all of this will go in front of an independent planning inspector who will make the final decision on all this. We are confident that he will notice how the wishes put forward by the majority of local residents here have been largely ignored by the developers and our council leadership. That is not in keeping with current planning legislation, a point we will be at pains to press home. Our group is not anti-housing, of course housing is needed, but there is a duty to properly involve local people in the process and for people in Panshanger that simply isn’t happening.

Regards,

Panshanger People.

______________________

13th March: The problems with the Airfield Development Exhibition.

Many local people attended the two sessions this week, although the Fairway event seemed better attended. One reason attendance may have been lower at Sir Fred’s was because there weren’t any signs directing people to it, inside or outside the school, and no people on hand to send people to the right building. If Hardhat are all about planning and PR this wasn’t an auspicious start.

People who’ve emailed us have apparently been told different things in response to the same questions. On the likelihood of a traveller site some people were clearly told that this isn’t any part of the plans. Others said they were told a traveller site is very likely. Still others were told that the council had recently asked Mariposa and its partners to work on adding a traveller site to their plans -this being so recently that they didn’t have time to include it in what was presented this week. Below is their map of the western end of the site, the HCA owned land. They would not be drawn on what would actually be put here but the layout of the plots seems to suggest it’s not all terraced or semi housing. The HCA were not at the exhibitions and so couldn’t be asked about their own plans directly. They have been emailed about them, but have so far not responded.

HCA Owned land

Red line and names added to make things clearer. Note a series of lakes shown, an interesting feature at the TOP of the Mimram Valley!

The series of drawings presented showed options that included an airfield, but these were effectively discounted. The only plan with any degree of detail was the one for the maximum number of houses, some of them built on the current green built, so assuming that the green belt boundary would be moved for them.

There were several inconsistencies and inaccuracies in what was presented. Below is their Green Infrastructure picture:

HardHat Green Infrastructure

The above shows multiple access points from the Bovis development and from Hilly Fields on the left. The top map above though doesn’t show any access points here, indeed their ribbon of lakes would seem to prevent it on the south side.

Lastly, the Sustainable Location diagram below says there is a pub at Moors Walk and points to Hazel Grove House as being the only Community Facility. It points out that with Moors Walk only 7-9 minutes away the several thousand new residents will be able to go there for their shopping. Of course, that’s not busy at all, always lots of parking spaces there nowadays, never a queue in Lidl! – It appeared to many residents that these people had no real knowledge of Panshanger, other than looking at it on map from the comfort of an office desk.

 

Sustainable Location diagram

All in all the exhibition was a disappointment, but not an unexpected one. It threw up more questions than it answered, and the answers that were offered were flimsy and insubstantial. The HCA, who allegedly collaborated in bringing us this were nowhere to be seen, we have no idea what their intentions are.

If this was Dragon’s Den they’d have been sent away without a penny and flea in their ear, unfortunately for us that live locally it’s a lot more serious than that.

The panels displayed at the exhibition can be downloaded by clicking here.

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11th March update: Airfield Development Exhibition.

Yesterday was the first exhibition event by Mariposa’s PR representatives. We’ve had reports back from quite a few people already and the gist of their comments are these:

  • There was a high turnout with long queues forming just to get a look at the pictures being displayed. Some visitors who didn’t have 20 minutes to stand in line gave up and left. It looked as if the 3 hour event was nowhere near long enough to cope with demand.
  • The handful of people presenting seemed to know little more than what was written on the display boards. There was nobody present from Mariposa or the HCA.
  • The display boards were quite vague and in some ways misleading. The sequenced display attempted to lead the viewer to thinking the only option for the site was the 900-1000 home option where the Green Belt would have to be moved/built on. Comments we’ve had back show that people weren’t fooled by that carefully worded narrative. (NOTE: People were told all the display pictures will appear on the PR company HardHat’s website today (March 11th). Their web address is panshanger.org.uk  it went live on Feb 24th. It should really be a .com address as they are a business, .org’s are usually non-profit community interest ‘organisations’ such as this site).
  • It seems that some people were told the plans do not include a traveller site at all, while others were told a traveller site was likely on the HCA land.
  • Representatives said  that there would definitely be no gravel extraction on the site and Herts CC have confirmed this to Hardhat. We will check this with HCC.
  • Many people asked about the required  infrastructure; who would build it and when. This question could not be answered from what we’re told.
  • While the plans presented include a ‘Community Centre’ with a few shops and possibly more, they also sold the plan on its proximity to Moors Walk shops. They seemed unaware that parking is unavailable there for much of the day already.

Here is a quote from somebody who emailed us after visiting the exhibition “I asked about the travellers site, a hospital, traffic congestion, shops and doctors surgery, their answers were, those are the councils problems.”. – This comment reflects the gist of the feedback we’ve had from the event so far.

Some people were told that an actual Mariposa person might be at the event on Saturday, we’ll believe that when we see it. No doubt the 4hr event on Saturday will be equally busy. Hopefully they will learn from yesterday and re-arrange things to avoid long queues that frustrate people even before they’ve seen what’s being glossily proposed.

 

Feb 28th: Mariposa announce a public exhibition:

10th March 3:30-6:30pm at the Fairway Tavern.

12th March 10:00-2:00pm at Sir Fred’s Sports Hall.

The below flyer has been posted through residents’ letterboxes this week about their planned event. It claims they are working with the Homes & Communities Agency on the event. They currently own the Hilly Fields Meadow open space, of course. Mariposa’s plan includes that area as well as the airfield site. Here is the flyer (click to enlarge):

Mariposa Flyer

Mariposa Flyer

They also have a new website and web address that contains only what is in the flyer above.

This is purely an exhibition and not a planning application. It seems to be part of a campaign by Hardhat the PR company Mariposa have enlisted to promote their plans for the site. They will want to try and create the impression that local people favour their plans, as this will make it more difficult for the council to challenge them later on. We encourage residents to attend the exhibition but please make sure your comments are properly noted by the organisers. If the HCA are present it will also be a good opportunity to ask them about the proposed traveller site. Part of the HCA’s remit is to develop and help fund new traveller sites. It’s important that local residents understand what these plans are, if any.

Mariposa’s submission to the last WHBC Local Plan consultation proposed three different housing options for the site, ranging from 500 – 1,000 homes. Their submission also contained the statement  “substantial parts of the site have the characteristics of previously developed land given the substantial buildings, large areas of hardstanding and open storage of aircraft and ancillary equipment. The Panshanger Airfield site would therefore be able to contribute up to 1,000 additional new homes”.  This statement indicates a preference for the 1,000 home option.

There is another option of course that this land used and valued by local residents (if not our council) is not built over.

Below is a short animation of their three three proposals as submitted to the council. Watch the map rotate through the different options with a description beneath.

 

Mariposa's proposed 3 options

Mariposa’s proposed 3 options

Note that the plan here doesn’t include the sloping field at the corner of the B1000 and Herns Lane, whereas the new flyer does.

The Green Belt and how the land is divided up on the site are key issues, not shown in their flyer map. Please see the below map which shows these important features.

Current land ownership

Current land ownership. Click to enlarge.

Panshanger People will be suggesting questions people may want to ask at the exhibition in coming days. Please check back here, and/ or join our mailing list.

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Feb 13th: Changes to Panshanger voting Ward

At the end of last year the Boundary Commission announced the changes it will be imposing on voting wards across Welwyn Hatfield, these will come into effect at the local elections which take place in all Welwyn Hatfield wards in May this year. The changes imposed on Panshanger will make very little sense to anyone living in the Panshanger geographical area. In summary, an even  larger part of Panshanger has now been placed into an expanded Haldens ward, and a chunk of Howlands ward (around Bushey Ley, The Ganetts etc) has been bolted on to Panshanger ward. See the map below (click to enlarge):

The new Panshanger ward.

The new Panshanger ward – Do you still live Panshanger?

During the last local election many people got in touch with us dismayed that they couldn’t vote for the person they wanted represent Panshanger, because they had found out that for election purposes they lived in Haldens (even though they actually lived in Panshanger). That problem just got a whole lot worse for 2016’s local election.

The full details of the ward changes can be read by clicking here.

A letter about this was printed in the Welwyn & Hatfield Times a few weeks ago, you can read it below. We will of course have more to say about the local elections as they get closer. We notice that party materials are already beginning to drop through letterboxes locally.

Letter in WHT:

Dear Sirs,

I am compelled to write to you having just looked at the new ward boundaries for Welwyn Hatfield as set out by the Local Government Boundary Commission last week. Generally, the changes are not major; Newgate Street will now fall under Cuffley & Northaw ward, and every ward will have three councillors.

However, what simply doesn’t add up is what they’ve done with Panshanger ward. Haldens ward now pushes even deeper into Panshanger itself. Wellington Drive, Lincoln Close and Watchlytes, for example, are now to be in Haldens ward. I’m sure residents there consider that they live in Panshanger, not Haldens. On the other hand, some streets such as Bushey Ley and Great Gannet, all those in that area off Heronswood Road in fact, are now to be part of Panshanger ward. Again, I doubt the residents living there consider themselves to be living in Panshanger.

Political wards may not seem important in the grand scheme of things but when residents come to vote in next year’s local elections they want to vote on issues that affect them, where they live. These changes only serve to put a bigger gap between the reality of where people live, and the political ward they are forced to vote in. The two should be harmonised, not pushed further apart. It’s little wonder people are disinclined to get involved in local politics when increasingly those who are supposed to be representing us are actually focussed on different issues in a different geographical area of the town.

I would have thought the Boundary Commission’s role is to prevent that from happening, not to make matters worse. You have to question whether the Boundary Commission actually came and had a look at what they were proposing to change; it looks more like a desk based exercise with a few OS maps to me. Common sense has not prevailed.

 

 

February 7th Update:

Site map

Inaugural meeting of a new local group to protect our environment tomorrow night at Hatfield House:

Panshanger People would like to inform you of an important new group which has been started to focus on Heritage, Ecology, Access, Development and Green Belt issues in Central & East Hertfordshire.The Central Hertfordshire Green Corridor Group (CHGCG) has been formed to promote the benefits of the vital east-west green corridor through Hertfordshire. This corridor includes Panshanger.There is a launch event for the group starting at 7pm on Monday 8th February at the Riding School Hatfield House.  Everyone is welcome. Follow brown signs to Hatfield House, the car park is at George’s Gate AL9 5HX
Ample car and coach parking is provided.

As we know the airfield area and adjacent WGC5 area “Birchall Garden Suburb” is currently being targeted by developers. Supporting this new group would be step towards making sure damage to our green spaces and countryside, is limited to what is acceptable to local residents.

 

CHGCG flyer

 

November 22nd Update:

A questionable claim:

Flyer as delivered recently

Flyer as delivered recently.

The flyer above has been delivered through letterboxes near Panshanger Airfield in the last few days, the part of Panshanger that falls under Haldens ward.

Point one is very hard to swallow and highly misleading. The claim being made is very far from the truth. Why?

This year Conservative councillors received hundreds of emails and letters from a large number of residents asking them to oppose the plans being put forward by the landowner for the re-development of the airfield. They claimed to support this objection and said they would take action.

They then did the opposite. In two important votes they went against the professional recommendations of the planning officers and voted to make Panshanger a ‘More Favourable’ site for development, moving it out of the ‘Finely Balanced’ category.  Despite a lot of direct lobbying by Panshanger People our Conservative Councillors actively supported the landowner’s plans. Not one of them voted against, or even abstained in the voting. How is this making clear local opinions about development plans to the council? This is ignoring local opinion and acting against what local people want, in the name of towing the local leadership’s party line.

Prior to the May 2015 election the Panshanger Conservative councillors did start their own vaguely worded online petition to save the airfield, which also collected email addresses for use by the local party machine. That petition was never submitted to the council as part of its consultation; it went nowhere and continued on for many months after the public consultation had finished.

This group feels indignant that the local Conservative party is now promoting itself as listening to local people on this matter.  They have not listened and have done the opposite of what was being asked.

There is a long way to go with this yet; a further consultation by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council is planned. We hope for a change of heart by Conservative Councillors but it appears unlikely to materialise due to continuing local party politics.

We will do our best to highlight such false claims in flyers from any party. Residents deserve better representation than this in our view.

 November 10th  2015Update:

We have not posted recently but here are a few updates:

Revised local plan timetable:

The latest information is that the Local Plan will now be adopted in Summer 2017. You may recall that the originally published date for this was Winter 2014. This means that the Local Plan schedule has slipped out by around 2.5 years as of now. There are many apparent reasons for the delay, the additional technical work  needed for the Panshanger Airfield proposal which it became clear the council needed to do was of course one of those reasons. For the borough there is an increased risk of unwanted speculative developer applications while appear there isn’t the protection that an adopted Local Plan would give. Welwyn Hatfield is not the only borough with these delays and many other parts of the country face similar problems in trying to agree and adopt a local plan. Apparently 82% of local councils have published plans, but only 65% have so far adopted them (i.e. they have passed final inspection). See more here.

More data from the last consultation:

Around 5,900 comments were made on the three consultation documents, as follows:

  • 5,481 comments on the Local Plan Consultation Document from 1,597 individuals and organisations;
  • 297 comments on the Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan from 79 individuals and organisations;
  • 102 comments on the Sustainability Appraisal of the Consultation Document from 34 individuals and organisations.

In addition to a number of standardised responses, two petitions were received:

• 501 signatures opposing development around Ellenbrook in Hatfield;
• 238 signatures opposing ‘urban sprawl’ and advocating the development of a new garden city as an alternative.

It is interesting to see that no petition about Panshanger Airfield was received into the consultation. Residents may recall that from about this time last year up until earlier this year two of our local councillors (Bennett & Johnson) were promoting an online petition they had created. It contained the wording “By signing this petition we are signifying our support for the airfield to the local council, our MP Grant Shapps, planners and the owners of the land, all of whom will receive a copy of the petition.” This petition appeared not long before the local election in May, but that may be coincidence of course…

It would appear that their petition was not submitted to the council during the months of the consultation, as it is not listed by the council as being received. Panshanger People took a decision not to promote this petition at the time as its purpose and motives were unclear to us. With hindsight it appears we made the right choice. It is disappointing of course that those managing the petition did not act on residents’ behalf and submit it to the council as stated.

July 5th Update:

As we enjoy the summer sun the comments into the public consultation are still being processed by the council planning team. There are currently 5422 comments available to view on the consultation document (see here).

Of immediate interest are the submissions of land owner Mariposa. They have submitted three documents, available below:

http://panshangerpeople.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Nathaniel-Lichfield-for-Mariposa-1.pdf

http://panshangerpeople.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Nathaniel-Lichfield-for-Mariposa-2.pdf

http://panshangerpeople.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Nathaniel-Lichfield-for-Mariposa-3.pdf

The first document above contains three different proposals and a map for each. For ease of reference you can see these below. The text beside them explains their rationale.

Click to enlarge each picture.

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3

The amount of homes on the site is estimated at up to 1000 for option three, this involves consuming some of the current Green Belt. The impact of such a development on Moors Walk shops and all other local services and amenities can only be imagined. It would also place a greater strain on our already overloaded local GP surgery, not to mention the impact on the new and much reduced hospital, which does not actually have inpatient wards and beds. None of this is the developers concern of course, but it is our concern and it is up to us to voice it.

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 There is an interesting article from the BBC which is very pertinent to the situation with the local plan in Welwyn Hatfield. A quote in it states  “The government is saying housing numbers are down to us as a local authority but really they’re not…It’s government policies which are given to the inspectors who come down here and dictate what they want.”  The whole article is very informative and can be read here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-31201782

See below and on our News page for more current and previous news:

Also, as expected Panshanger is being promoted as a more favourable site for development. The planning team did actually classify it as finely balanced, which would have meant Panshanger would only appear in the appendix of this consultation, as do many other sites in Cuffley, Brookmans Park etc.  Some councillors from those areas, and our own councillor,  decided to overturn the planning team’s classification for Panshanger at the recent cabinet meeting (see below). So while Panshanger appears here in the main body of the consultation as a prime  site for development including a traveller site, this would not have been the case if the cabinet had not decided to overturn the planning teams classification,  and classify it as a more favourable site instead. This is a key point to bear in mind, and one we hope won’t be lost on the planning inspector who ultimately examines what has gone on.

We are told that the public consultation on the draft local plan will commence around the last week of January. The format will be as last time around with people being encouraged to submit their comments online. There will be an event held by the council at Sir Frederic Osborne School from 4:30 – 8:30pm on February 19th to explain the plan to local people, and another in the Howard Centre on February 10th, 3:00-7:30pm. We already have a good understanding of what the plan will propose. Despite the hundreds of opposing comments they received in the last consultation, and the thousands of emails and letters sent to the various people at the council since that time, Panshanger will be proposed as a more favourable site for 700+ homes. This also despite the two expert reports they were supplied with proposing an alternative vision for the airfield. It will be essential that local people who object to this plan once again respond to the consultation in great numbers. We need to send a huge message back to the council that we are unhappy at the way this new plan has been arrived at (unfairly in our view) and we are not happy with the plan itself for a variety of reasons. We will outline some key objections on this site as soon as we have had a chance to digest the actual consultation wording. Essentially all the objections raised by residents last time around will probably still apply.

Residents will not be notified that the consultation is happening by any direct letter or leaflet from the council, we had asked for this but a notice in the local paper, and notice in the council’s Life magazine, is again as far as they intend to go in terms of blanket publicity. We want to make sure that every Panshanger resident knows about it, and knows how to respond to it. We will need your help to achieve that.

Please do tell your friends about this website and importantly ask them to sign up to our email list.

That way we can email supporters directly with news about the consultation. Other parts of the borough are very well organised and will be opposing the housing in their area,  they have already succeeded in having much of the development proposed in their area discounted in the pending consultation. This means that Panshanger might have to swallow some of the housing allocation that by rights should have been in other areas.  It seems that just as in the last consultation in 2012, our area starts from the disadvantaged position of being a favoured location. This time due to the actions of councillors at the December cabinet meeting, including our own councillor, in deciding to change Panshangers  status from finely balanced to more favourable. To their credit the council have put that meeting on You Tube and you can watch it below, we hope these important meetings will continue to be recorded and made publicly available.

Please check back here regularly for updates in coming weeks, you may find meeting recording below illuminating.

 

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 Panshanger Park access from Panshanger:

Panshanger Park on the edge of Panshanger (The Lafarge site) is slowly opening up as a new Country Park for the enjoyment of local residents. This has been the plan since 1980 but things are well behind schedule and the western part of the park which contains most of the interesting heritage artefacts has not yet been opened at all. Importantly, the path along the Mimram valley from Panshanger remains out of bounds. When this is finally open up there will be a path from Panshanger Lane along the level Mimram valley floor to the eastern end of the park, which is already open. This means residents will be able to take a walk or ride alongside the Mimram taking in the views across the valley.  The Friends of Panshanger Park group is working hard to encourage Lafarge to finally open up our end of the new park. Currently Lafarge have still not confirmed when this will actually open, and have given only vague reasons as to why it cannot be opened up now. You can follow progress and add yourself as a supporter of the friends group on their website here: friendsofpanshangerpark.co.uk.  Once this half of the park opens up it will provide great walking opportunities for Panshanger residents. Panshanger People is on the committee of the friends group and shares their objectives.

The friends group have set up a weekly park run with the national parkrun body. It’s proving very successful, the run has a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/panshangerparkrun you can also listen to a recent short interview piece about the run and the park’s history by clicking here, or going to friends group website. Anybody of any age or ability can join the run on Saturday mornings by registering on the parkrun website.

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December 17th: WHBC Cabinet Meeting, most residents attending were not impressed.

Thank you to all the residents who came along to witness the rubber stamping of the consultation plan. It was very encouraging to see so many people there, many of which took the opportunity to vent their frustration and disapproval at what was going on. To say it was a lively meeting would be an understatement. As predicted the cabinet members voted unanimously to approve all aspects of the consultation plan that was put forward by the housing panel last week. At first the cabinet were not even going to do a show of hands on the half dozen or so items to be voted on. The chair, Cllr John Dean, appeared to want it all to be quite literally nodded through with no visible casting of any vote. Residents quite rightly irked by this and called for a proper show of hands; so they could see how each councillor voted. This then happened and we saw each cabinet councillor agreeing immediately to every sub-part with no question or debate.

This included Panshanger Cllr Trigg, who of course wrote in January (prior to his re-election):

Trigg pledge pre-election 2014

He could have objected, or even abstained, but as last week happily voted in the plan to make WGC4 a more favourable site for development.  He went on to receive several calls for his resignation over the course of the meeting from various members of the public, despite him trying to justify his lack of  ward representation to Panshanger residents. He talked of having to wear two hats as he’s also Executive member for Housing. He didn’t have to take on that role, he would have been aware of the potential for a conflict of interest when he was asked to do it. He clearly should not be doing both roles if it precludes him from representing the very people who elected him.

All of this can be heard in the meeting recording below; it is well worth a listen as much for the palpable discontent in the room, not only from Panshanger residents. Several supporters of Panshanger People asked questions at the beginning and during the meeting. The questions  received the traditional scripted replies which mostly failed to answer the question. It’s not known who actually authors these answers. Some very good questions were put with passion; these alone are well worth a listen.

During the meeting it was again stated that things have changed because the airfield is no longer an airfield. To dispel this assumption our supporter handed a new letter  to all the councillors  from the General Aviation Awareness Council stating very clearly that it is still a designated airfield and that the current WHBC rationale is flawed for several reasons.

On a more positive note it was made clear that tonight was about agreeing what would go to public consultation, not what the final plan for housing allocations would be. That is still about a year away. However, a number of sites have already been downgraded as less favourable or finely balanced, while Panshanger has been promoted.  Unusually the public were also allowed to ask questions during the meeting, this was not made known at the start but just happened. Perhaps due to the level of resentment being aired. This was welcome and is definitely a good thing for local democracy, credit is due for that. It wasn’t any kind of Town Hall debate though; there are still no plans for anything like that as far as we know.

The upshot is that the consultation will now go ahead in January. The finely balanced and less favourable sites will get a mention somewhere, but the more favourable sites (Incl. Panshanger) will get the focus. From the questions raised at the meeting it’s clear that the council’s new plan has quite a lot of holes which are likely to be heavily scrutinised by the planning inspector when he finally comes to review it later next year.

You can hear the meeting yourself below. If you haven’t attended one of these meetings before you may find listening to this one will inspire you to attend one day!

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